Italy’s Chiaretto from Lake Garda Makes Waves

Thinking about all of the wonderful Rosato produced today in Italy brought me to think about some wines that are made on Lake Garda using a blend of grapes. The wines are from a denomination called Valtènesi. When someone mentions Chiaretto people usually think Bardolino but I an writing about the Chiaretto from Valtènesi which is also on Lake Garda. I probably should have put that in my title but I thought it might be even more confusing.

Where is Valtènesi you ask? It is an area located on the morainic hills of the Western shores of the Lake Garda region, with small flatlands dotted among the gentle slopes in Lombardy. Bardolino is on the Eastern shore in the Veneto.

The climate here is temperate thanks to the nearby lake and the effect it has on the vines. Lake Garda is Italy’s largest and deepest lake. The lake was once covered by a glacier. This body of water is important because it is a reserve of cool air when it is too hot and warmth when the days grow colder. The lake also protects the vines from the nearby Alps and their harsher climate. Thanks to this temperate climate, producers  around the lake can, and often do, also grow olives, lemons and capers, as well as grapes. This polyculture of crops as we know is better for the soils.

Is there a consortium for these wines? Yes and it’s called the Riviera del Garda Classico DOC since 2017 with the Valtènesi as a subzone. Founded under the name Consorzio Garda Classico in 1998, it was changed to Consorzio Valtènesi in 2012 and then incorporated into the larger Riviera del Garda Classico DOC in 2017.

The Valtènesi Chiaretto Riviera del Garda Classico is made from a blend of four grapes Groppello (di Mocasina, di San Stefano, and/or Gentile) min. 30%, Marzemino mx 25%, Sangiovese max 25%, Barbera max 25%. Alternatively, other red grapes can be added for up to 25% but Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot can only make up 10%, Most producers try to use the local varieties in the blend I have found. Producers can put Valtènesi and the name of their local town if it is in the Valtènesi DOC.

This rosato wine is usually pale in color between onion skin and very light salmon in color with orange notes of the rim. They are intensely fruity and floral on the nose. Groppello on its own vinified in stainless steel is very much like the French grape Gamay.

Marzemino, another indigenous local  red grape, is quite dark in color and brings body and color to a wine. Mentioned by Mozart in the opera Don Giovanni, it is a Northern Italian grape of some note in Trentino and the Veneto as well as in Lombardy. Sangiovese is our classic Tuscan variety with its sour cherry, acidy and earthy tones and Barbera, as we know, hails from Piedmont and brings acidity and bright fruit to the blend.


The wines are made using a method called Molmenti method. Pompeo Molmenti was a senator from Venice and mayor of a town called Moniga del Garda. He developed the technique of making the Groppello grape into rosé wine. The producers on the lake like to say its the wine of one night. The must stays in contact with the skins just a few hours to achieve that famous pale pink color.

Last year in March 2019, the Consorzio Valtènesi established something called Rosautoctono together with the Consorzio di tutela del Chiaretto e del Bardolino, Consorzio di Tutela Vini DOC Castel del Monte, Consorzio di Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo, Consorzio di Tutela vini DOC Salice Salentino and Consorzio Vini Cirò e Melissa. This Rosato project is shining a light on the amazing wines made from indigenous grapes into Rosato in Italy.

I have tried a number of these Chiaretto wines because many producers from Lugana, a region I work with, produce Chiaretto di Valtenesi. I love their refreshing acidity, fruity notes and rose petal color. Groppello has a very thin skin and is delicate

One producer whose Chiaretto I particularly favor is Pasini San Giovanni . He uses a very short skin contact regime, then a soft pressing of the grapes and then puts them in steel tanks. The wine has good acidity. Founded in 1958 by Andrea Pasini. Today it is run by Paolo Pasini who I know and who is a very intense, friendly and environmentally conscious guy. He has been organic since 2014. He is very attentive to his carbon footprint, measuring it since 2009, he plants grasses between the vines for improve the health of the soil and looks to increase the biodiversity in the vineyards. He tries to release the Chiaretto around Valentine’s day. His vineyards are at 148 meters above sea level.

As Paolo tells it on his website, Valtènesi Chiaretto has its roots in an 1885 love story between a noblewoman from Garda, Amalia Brunati, and the Venetian Senator Pompeo Molmenti for whom the vinification technique is named. Molmenti learned Rosé wine-making during his travels in France and created the method for producing Chiaretto in Moniga, in the Valtènesi area, in 1896. After a few hours of contact between the must and the skins of local red grapes, the rite of overnight racking is performed, followed by gentle pressing hence the moniker “Wine for one night.”

Pasini’s wines are available in the US, for under $20, in the New York and New Jersey market he is with Coeur Wine Co. A real keeper this versatile wine that can stand up well on it’s own by the Lake in Garda or here in our country. It is also beautiful with fish, salads, white meat, pasta. I am a real fan of his wines.

Join the Italian Food Wine & Travel bloggers today, August 1st, as we explore the pink wines made from Italy’s native grapes. Our chat starts at 11 am ET on Twitter, following #ItalianFWT. I can promise that for at least one hour, you’ll be immersed in good wine, delicious food, and beautiful landscapes. Hope you’ll chime in with notes on your favorite rosato wine.

Here’s a taste of what’s on the agenda (including a wide array of regions and grapes):


  1. I’m a big fan of Chiaretto…from BOTH sides of Lake Garda! Nice to see you featuring Valtenesi and the Groppello group of grapes (along with Marzemino of course!) Do any of your notes happen to mention which groppello? (if not, it’s usually a blend of all of them!)

  2. Wow! Thank you for the introduction to this region. What a fascinating place. I look forward to investigating the Rosautoctono project further!

  3. I was not acquainted with Valtènesi, thanks so much for sharing such great information about the region. I’ll now be on the lookout. I also love the love story attached to the history of the wine.

  4. One more reason to love all the wines from the land around Lake Garda! I had the chance to taste one a few weeks back, and found it rich and refreshing – all the good things poured into a glass. Thanks for sharing one of your favorites with us!

  5. Fascinating to read about rosato produced on the western side of Lake Garda. Was not familiar with Valtenesi, the Molmenti method and the Groppello group of grapes. Such an informative post!

  6. I still have never had a Chiaretto, but so many of you have been talking about it that it’s time I did!

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